Chapter 1—Coldness Within
“Same thing again today?” I couldn’t help but grumble at the same exact lesson from yesterday, maybe a few different examples but that’s it... Chemistry has been my strongest, and most fun subject—but this…This is blasphemy.
Currently, I am seated in my classroom. Rustles of paper and the scent of clearly expired chalk bombarded me as I looked around at my also bored classmates.
The brisk movement of the chalk thumped against the blackboard as my pseudo-aggressive teacher was grumbling about how the students still hadn’t gotten the lesson.
“Awww, would you please stop complaining? At least we won’t do any more new things.” I squinted my eyes as the melodic voice of an angel irked me, I grimaced, cringing. It bothered me, so I turned to her.
She was wearing our summer uniform. Embodying a short-sleeved white blouse that hugged her—I admit—alluring figure. Crossed legs that garnered most boys’ glances, and a ribbon that held her knee-high pleated skirt.
“That’s exactly what I’m complaining about, Ms. Class Muse,” I rolled my eyes at her, tired of her usual antics. It’s like every time I look at her she’s wearing a teasing, almost mocking grin that betrayed her otherwise attractive face.
Getting bored, I turned my notebook page to an empty one. I drew, the pen scratching the nostalgic smell of notebook paper. Nothing in particular; it just scribbles with no certain or specific patterns. ‘Just like me,’ I chuckled at the thought.
“You seem happy, Mr. Outcast?” Ophelia teased, raising a sharp and bold eyebrow at me, her eyelashes fluttered as she teasingly batted them. My nose wrinkled as I saw her pinkish lips pursed at me.
“That would’ve hurt me, but your disgusting sight overwhelmed everything I was supposed to feel.” I retorted back and she made an exaggerated ‘hurt’ expression, clutching her chest melodramatically.
“Screw you,” She said with a smiling pout.
“Srew—” Before I could retort back, a chalk eraser flew at me, knocking my head back. It drew almost everyone’s attention towards me—which I wasn’t used to, but no one needs to know that.
I coughed as I snorted quite a bit of chalk dust from the sudden projectile.
I raised my head up, dust falling down from my hair, painting my black pants with dots of white. I found my eccentric chemistry teacher looking at me, his arms crossed, fingers tapping on his hairy arm. ‘The heck is wrong with you?’ I looked at him incredulously. The wrinkles on his scowling face told me that there was a lot, a lot of wrong with him.
“While I appreciate the camaraderie, Ms. Ophelia and….who are you again?” His eyes squinted behind a pair of black-square glasses, my classmates chuckling at his question.
I held back the urge to sneeze, “Mika, sir,” But I couldn’t. I sneezed, turning my head to my left—to Ophelia. I did not do it on purpose. I swear. Yes. She grimaced in protest as she tried to wave the virus I had already spread.
“Well, Mika, you should refrain from talking too much.”
“I am, sir,” —I shot a look filled with pure malice at Ophelia, “more than what it seems,” I added, I couldn’t help but be infuriated, albeit mildly, at the sight of the girl beside me covering her mouth, doing her best to contain her shrill—for sure, annoying—laughter.
“Sit,” Said the teacher.
I turned away from Ophelia more because of how annoyed I was. I have carefully made a facade of indifference throughout moving to this new school; I am invincible now. Nothing could faze me now. Nothing—
“I didn’t know you wear makeup,” Ophelia quipped, “You look fabulous, bestie,” She added while biting her lips for added effect, looking at me like I’m a piece of meat.
Not joking, I felt my eye twitch a hundred times, “I swear Ophelia—” My voice came out louder than I had anticipated causing the teacher to cut me off.
“Nika!” He called, clearly annoyed.
“It’s Mika, sir, and you shouldn’t be saying that sir, it’s racist,” I grumbled with a deadpan expression, garnering stifled peals of laughter behind me…and beside me.
“Don’t matter, get the hell out of my class!” He shouted, quelling the amused laughter of everyone else aside from my seatmate.
I sighed, rolling my eyes at Ophelia who couldn’t help but add a commentary, “I have some makeup remover on me,” Flashing a gleaming sunshine grin.
Our chemistry teacher who was already resumed his writing on the board, added, “You too, Ophelia, get out.”
“Eh? You mean me, sir?” Ophelia pointed at herself, bewildered as her mouth dropped in surprise. I chuckled, loud enough so she could hear—purposely of course.
“Get the hell out, both of you,” He said, not pausing on writing, “While I appreciate the camaraderie, you shouldn’t be flirting like that in class,” From his smirk, it was clear that he added that comment for his own amusement. A few giggles rang out.
“Hear that Ophelia? You should stop harassing me,” I quipped as we made our way out, eliciting wild laughter from some of her friends. The doors slid close, creaking, and muting the laughter behind us.
Stepping out of the class, I was met with an empty hallway, Ophelia’s brisk steps on the polished concrete floor echoing throughout. “Even the way you walk is annoying,” I commented.
“Bite me.” She simply responded. We walked, her stride a few steps ahead of me, I stared at her ankle socks and black leather shoes with a blank mind, and most probably a black expression. I hope. The last thing I want is for her to see me looking at her feet with a rabid expression of wanting.
Ophelia is a cheerful person, it is apparent even as she walks. Her knee-high, almost mid-thigh skirt swayed along with her enticing tread of confidence. She spun around on her heels, her red-orange hair flowing with her, “At least we got us out of that boring class, right?” She flashed me a pearly-white grin.
“Sure,” I said, not taking heed of what she was doing. Not letting my facade waver.
Chirps of birds just outside the hallway window sounded harmonically with the shouts and rowdy stumps of the soccer team training just below us. I stopped at a window where a tree could be touched from just within. The leaves cast a shade on my face, casting warmth instead of the burning rays of the sun. The gentle breeze of humid, summer wind hit me in the nose; it smelled of a dry, dusty school field and evaporated sweat.
While I don’t know much about soccer, I analyzed the guys playing below. One guy was shouting and waving at the other one dribbling the ball, “Oh, he’s open, nice,” Commenting on the side, I couldn’t help but be entranced by their movements. Discipline and persistence, both qualities I admire—sometimes envy.
Not long after, the guy who waved scored a goal. Cheers erupted from down below, chiming with the sound of an airplane passing by above us. Dust flew as they ran to each other, thumping their chest like wild monkeys. ‘That’s not a bad simile.’
I turned around, my interest waning. It was to my surprise that Ophelia was there, staring at me.
“W-what?” I asked—stammered, taken aback by her sudden antics.
“Non! You just looked peaceful sittin’ there.” She smiled, twiddling her hair in a way that made me think she was out of it. ‘To be fair, she IS kind of crazy.’
“Is that so? Well, you interrupted that peace. Now, shoo.” I said as I decided to make my way to the cafeteria.
The halls and everything was silent aside from the bustling activity of the soccer team, and the occasional voices of students and teachers inside busy classrooms. That, and Ophelia’s steps…
We are now outside the building, in the loggia that leads to the cafeteria, the sun hitting just close to my black shoe—we are required to wear them.
“Why are you so eager on following me?” I am tired of her taunting escapades. It is still the first semester, yet I feel like I have gone through four quarters already. The mental acuity required to keep up with her is slowly taking a toll on my carefully made facade.
She merely shrugged, and I resumed my walk. Eager to have some ice cream on this particularly hot day. Excitement, which I rarely feel, bubbles inside of me at the thought of having a well-deserved treat after a stressful class…well, mostly interactions with Ophelia.
I opened the door to the cafeteria, welcoming me to the cool and rejuvenating atmosphere of the air-conditioned building. The scent of baking bread, the squeaking clean floors, and the neatly arranged yellow tables and chairs. I took it all in. It was quiet; it was clear that the students were still in their respective classrooms.
The entire right side of the cafeteria is just a glass wall….or a massive window? Just ahead next to the glass wall, there are steps of stairs. I decided to go to my usual corner close to the exit as soon as I got my treat.
“One bubble gum ice cream, please,” I asked the nice lady who always greet me whenever I am around.
“Sure, hon,” She smiled, probably the most amiable I have ever seen as the corner of her eyes crinkled, and her cheeks revealed a charming dimple.
I took a couple of coins out of my purse. They clinked as I set them on the clearly sanitized off-white counter. In my hand, the biting cold bubble gum ice cream made my sweaty palms rejoice in relief. ‘I can’t believe she makes me this nervous.’ Seriously, I think I am in the presence of a future psychopath killer.
“Wait…bubble gum ice cream…?” She said with a glint of newfound disgust—possibly fear—in her cerulean eyes. She frowned.
“W-what? Why?” I, again, stammered, caught off guard by her blatant judgment. ‘I have gotten weird looks, but is it really that bad?’
“You know that no one in this school eats that, right? BAHA!” She cynically pointed a finger at me, clutching her stomach as her chest boun—heaved.
My head turned to Ms. Booker like a whip as I asked, “Is that true?”
She reluctantly nodded, "Darling, no one in this place ever orders that, which is why you caught my eye from the start, young man."
I felt a warmth, a contrast to the cool cafeteria, climbing up my cheeks, “T-this is bullying.”
It annoys me. Why, of all the people in this place, did Ophelia decide to disturb my peace? Is she toying with me? Am I actually being bullied without being aware of it?
My facade completely faltered as Ophelia, and my favorite lunch lady laughed and chuckled at me. It makes me wonder how and what they see in me to be such cheerful characters in my otherwise dull world.